In Defense of Ayn Rand.

Via Brian Culkin
on Nov 20, 2011
get elephant's newsletter
Photo: Tripp

For more coverage: Occupy Lululemon.

Shopping Right (Wing): Lululemon’s Political Values.

And, Lululemon wants to know: Who is John Galt?

Ayn Rand was no Yogi. That’s for sure.

However, any philosophical system, like Rand’s Objectivism, has a peculiar capacity. And that capacity lies solely in the individual who applies it in his or her life. The philosophy of Rand certainly does not appeal to everyone. In fact, many are repulsed by her entire philosophical structure.

There are many facets of Rand’s philosophy that I do not agree with. Her militant atheism is something I can certainly do without. Her seeming lack of compassion was furthered by perhaps not the best choice of language. Her views on “the absoluteness of objective reality” is something, as a Yogi and an avid reader on matters pertaining to physics, I disagree without reservation.

However, there are portions of her ideas that have been incredibly influential in my life and many people that I look to for inspiration. Like any organized body of considerations, Objectivism does not have to be taken as an absolute truth. It has to be measured and sensed by the individual to see if it has application in his or her life.

Rand’s idea about the connection between work and values is something that I have personally used in my life with great success. The highest values of Rand, if one were to apply them, could lead to dramatic achievement and a new found sense of purpose in whatever field they choose.

If an individual who was intent on a Yoga practice applied the highest values of Rand’s philosophy, that individual would undoubtedly be in India at this very moment perfecting every asana.

If the highest values of Rand’s philosophy were applied by an individual who was an aspiring Buddhist, then he or she would be under a Bodhi tree for some time before coming back to teach all of us.

Photo: Cometstarmoon

Rand was a champion of success. Rand was a champion of achievement. Rand was a champion of an individual using and developing his or her abilities to produce, create and exist at a higher level.

What an individual creates is a direct extension of who they are. An individual’s productive capabilities are a result of that person’s mind and their ability to use rational thought—to create something of value in the world.

Nothing, in my opinion is more beautiful. Nothing embodies the highest ethics of humanity. That spark in all of us to create in our lives is a reflection of who we truly are.

How big do you want to create?

How big is your mind?

The same old argument against Rand’s selfishness and greed is looking at her philosophy from a very limiting viewpoint. Of course, we all have the right to interpret data and philosophy to suit our own needs and our capacity to rationalize our own existence.

My personal belief is that the philosophy of Rand, when applied on a higher plane that also includes a deeper sense of spirituality, can easily be aligned with Buddhism, Yoga or any other philosophical system that embodies the human potential.

Enlightenment is a form success. It is a form of production. And, anyone who rises in higher levels of spiritual understanding will be the first to acknowledge that it is most definitely work. Hard work.

The definition of work is “energy with a purpose.”

In the world we live in, so many view work as a chore—A necessary evil that must be done to pay the bills and put food on the table. Unfortunately, this is the state of the world that we now exist in. As deeper and more impinging regulations come from the federal government and the large corporations that run it, you will see this become more and more obvious in our experience—Work becoming a modern variation of slavery. Instead of whips and chains, Visas and Mastercards.

Nothing could be further from the vision of Ayn Rand. Rand postulates that work should be a creative act. Work should be the manifestation of each and every individual’s highest ideals and morals. Work should be ultimately a path to the achievement of one’s highest values. That is work. That is, “energy with a purpose.”

Photo: Ricardo Carreon

I laugh when people say that the economic collapse under Bush was a result of the free market economics as prescribed by Ayn Rand.

Or (my favorite) Greenspan’s term as the Fed chairman and his actions were influenced by his previous association with Ayn Rand.

Nothing, and I sincerely mean nothing could be further from the truth.

W. Bush and Greenspan (as well as Obama and Bernake) have done virtually everything Rand specifically warned against.

The policies they have enacted have virtually nothing to do with free markets as Rand prescribed.

The basic lie that the financial crisis has permeated through American economic consciousness is that somehow “freedom is bad” and “free markets are dangerous.” Did you ever wonder who was the source of that message? Did you ever question the validity of such a statement?

Goldman Sachs is not a result of a free market. Wal-mart is not a result of a free market. They are the result of a tightly controlled and regulated bureaucracy that supports these banks and corporations that have seized control of our government. And, worst of all, they, the very ones who have created this whole mess, blame freedom, a free market and covertly demand more regulation and more safeguards.

Who will benefit from these new regulations? Who will benefit from these new controls? Goldman Sachs and Wal-Mart will, of course.

Freedom is truth. Truth can be applied across all of life—Economics, politics, yoga, nutrition. It has universal application. In a truly free market, Goldman would be bankrupt and Wal-Mart would be kicked out of every small American town they have ravaged.


Photo: Ted Van Pelt

As Rand states throughout her philosophy, work and production are related to morals and the rational capability of man.

In my own perception of Rand and objectivism, one of the main pieces missing is the absence of spirituality and extreme rigidness on her views.

Her seeming inability to grant other people the very thing she proposes in her philosophy: free will and rationalism as a means to production.

It seems that she did not learn a fundamental lesson about the human mind and individuality. Rationalism is not a one-size-fits-all concept. It is, more than anything, a process by which each being on this planet gives meaning to the world and their place in it.

After spending time in Ran’s inner intellectual circle in New York City in the late 1950’s, Murray Rothbard, a disciple of Von Mises and one of the fathers of Libertarianism in America, observed that many of the values that Rand holds in her philosophy are not being applied in her own life. It has also been noted that Rand herself suffered severe bouts of depression and anxiety from time to time.

“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.” -Ayn Rand, “The Virtue of Selfishness”

Although there is tremendous truth to this statement, it begs the questions “Why?” and “How?” Here is a woman who achieved the height of success. A writer with one of the most popular books in history, a philosophical movement with her at the head, fame, and riches yet still with apparently a deep sense of unhappiness herself.

Maybe, instead, “Happiness is state of consciousness that is not dependent on anything. However, as one achieves their highest values in the world, their happiness is made manifest for the world to see.”

Success, achievement and competition when lived from the viewpoint of the highest human potential are never done to be better than or to repress or control others. Real achievement and true competition are results of the expression of one’s highest purpose. It is, in my opinion, a spiritual exercise to show our highest beliefs.

Ayn Rand was no Yogi, thats for sure.  But any Yogi if they drew certain aspects from her philosophy would benefit.


About Brian Culkin

You can read more about Brian at his website,


22 Responses to “In Defense of Ayn Rand.”

  1. jenn says:

    Hmmm… nice spin. Not sure I will be buying it.

  2. Clockworktomato says:

    I echo Nina's sentiment exactly. I, too, have given up bothering or caring to defend how it is that I find congruence in Rand's work and other aspects of my life. Obviously I retain a message and inspiration from her writing that others do not, and I'm not so dedicated to the cause to try to convince someone else that my reading is better or more valuable or correct. It isn't. It is simply my reading, my value, and it encourages and inspires me to reach higher and be better as an individual. What I do with myself when I arrive there, and what defines that path, is up to me — if I were only blindly following the script Rand wrote for herself, I'd rather be missing the point.

  3. Brian Culkin says:

    @ Thx Nina.
    @ Clockwork- Totally. Who says our achievement is Rand's achievement? My achievement is measured by my morals and my ability as is yours. This is a beautiful thing. It is exhausting defending her. But again, there are things I don't like about her all that much. Overall- her ideas can be made into a very positive thing. 🙂

  4. Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W. Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  5. Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  6. Bob Weisenberg says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  7. Brian, this is a brilliant article. I am a lifelong fan of Ayn Rand, and have always been fascinated with the shortsightedness with which people classify her work or use her name to defend their own totalitarian principles. What has always fascinated me about her is how she asks the reader, through the protagonists in her stories, not to view something as it is, but instead, to view it as it ought to be. While there are many interpretations to this statement, I take it to mean that one should be a visionary in whatever work they perform. I am an aspiring yoga teacher, and by applying the philosophy of how a yoga class should be taught, it leaves me no room to teach in a half-assed way, or hold back from giving my students everything I have with every class I teach. I am also an aspiring yoga student because the learning never stops, which leaves me no room to practice in a half-assed way. Neither of the aforementioned statements indicate that one has to be physically operating on all burners to the point of exhaustion just for the sake of doing so, but it does indicate that there should always be full effort given to the creative forces that reside within us when we approach our work. Look at how Howard Roarke (The Fountainhead) created buildings. He looked at the spot where the building should go, and then created his design as an extension of that space, wherein he was able to create something geometrically contiguous with the Earth. Further, Rand shows that people who limit themselves to societal strictures of propriety or submit to the conglomeration of society without the freedom to create and express, are unable to see and appreciate the work that her fictional character Mr. Roarke created. It is truly fascinating in its scope.

    For all of her flaws, spiritual absence, and rigidity, you are absolutely correct in your statement that there are many aspects of her philosophy that can be taken to heart wherein we can all become better versions of ourselves. No single philosophical system is perfect because there will always be a subjectivity attached to it by the people who interpret it. Additionally, the creator of that philosophy will always be inherently flawed or hypocritical as well. But Rand has hit on so many brilliant aspects of how to set up and approach one’s own code of morals and ethics through working creatively that she certainly deserves the credit that you have given her.

    Thank you for such a wonderful article. It was a pleasure to read.

  8. Brian Culkin says:

    Thanks for the duplication Andrew. Glad u liked!

  9. I have certainly gotten my intellectual fix from all of this. Keep it coming. Thanks for being good-natured about my pontification as well! Inspired writing inspires my writing. I look forward to reading more of your work.

  10. I think some of the principles we can take away from Rand's philosophy are a great stepping stone. Yes, be your best. Strive for greatness. But individual greatness is not the end goal. I read Atlas Shrugged & The Fountainhead in high school & both were influential at that time to push me to be better, be an individual rather than falling into group think or conformity. As a mindful adult, my desire for any greatness goes hand in hand with wanting to share any gains for the good of others, not just myself. There are great things to take from Rand, if we don't stop where she did, but pay it forward.

    Great post, Brian!

  11. integralhack says:

    Wow. Brian, you write: 'The basic lie that the financial crisis has permeated through American economic consciousness is that somehow "freedom is bad" and “free markets are dangerous.” Did you ever wonder who was the source of that message? Did you ever question the validity of such a statement?'

    I hardly think this message has been the dominant message in this country. Rather, many Americans, including the Tea Party and a large part of the Republican party believe–perhaps as you do–in the notion of laissez-faire (hands off) capitalism. This was a central tenet in Ayn Rand's philosophy.

    The central problem with this naive notion is that it ignores the ease in which corporations can change the rules. Corporations are granted tax breaks and handouts either because they become "too big to fail" or their lobbies become too influential. It is naive in the same way that "trickle down economics" was naive (or misleading)–rich kids and corporations aren't going to share their halloween candy if you give them the whole bag.

    We might be inspired *personally* by Howard Roark or John Galt in terms of their unflinching dedication to their work and art as depicted in Rand's fiction, but we shouldn't confuse the personal with the public or the fiction with the facts. Rand may have been an entertaining novelist, but not much of a philosopher.

    BTW, Brian, who/what is the source of the message you allude to?

  12. cocco says:

    @integralhack. yes. exactly. thank you.

  13. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  14. […] And, In Defense of Ayn Rand. […]

  15. DMCG says:

    Thanks, Carol. Well said. Brian is confused and misinformed. Rand was misanthrope, a megalomaniac, and a sociopath, who admired serial killers. &lt ;> Not exactly the model Yogi.

  16. Joe Sparks says:

    Our value and worth as human beings is totally independent of any achievements or accomplishments.

  17. Rusty says:

    I think you almost get it. Rand thinks one should strive to be the greatest person they can be and then IT IS THEIR CHOICE if they share one's gifts with the rest of the world. Society does not get to force them or demand from them. Of course most people would share their gifts but on their terms. If you are fulfilled by making another human being feel good and loved then of course you do it…on your terms and to the best of your ability. I am always baffled how people construe Rand's philosophy as a philosophy of greed and selfishness rather than a philosophy of personal excellence and free choice be it business, spiritual or whatever one chooses as a priority in their life.

  18. […] deal of this reporting until it became a mainstream news story, and kept at it—we did it with respect, diverse points of view and self-inquiry. And I still don’t view his over-sharing as a bad […]

  19. Lesli W. says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I see I'm not alone in being tired of defending my respect for Ayn Rand's writing. Of all my favorite authors, she is the one who has inspired me to be strong, fiercely independent, proud of my accomplishments and driven to create meaningful things (in my case, that tends to be words). I've had fiery debate over her views on ignorance and I've had debate over her views on individuality.

    One of my favorite quotes is John Galt's pinnacle, "I swear, on my life and my love of it that I will not live for the sake of another man nor ask another to live for mine." I am a yogi, and I think this quote means that we cannot ask anyone to be anything but themselves, and in return we promise to follow our own path. To me, it invokes the yama of aparigraha (non-possessiveness/non-grasping)… perhaps if we ask anyone to live for us it is to want them to forsake their own destiny, maybe even their own dharma to appease our own selfish needs. So maybe Ayn Rand was a teeny bit of a yogi in her own right, even if she'd never in a million years admit it.

    Thank you!